Tag Archive | "Elbow Injury"

St. Louis Cardinals will go as far as young players take them

The St. Louis Cardinals called up their latest, greatest prospect Friday when they brought second baseman Kolten Wong to the major leagues. That move, combined with another poor outing from 35-year-old starting pitching Jake Westbrook, signaled just how important the young Cardinals will be in the final six weeks of the 2013 regular season.

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Young players have been a vital part of the Cardinals success that had them in a wild-card position as of Friday. First-year players from Matt Adams to Carlos Martinez to Seth Maness to Michael Wacha to Kevin Siegrist and even Tyler Lyons have kept the Cardinals afloat during both good and bad times this season.

When Westbrook and fellow starter Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list in May, rookies Lyons and John Gast came up to fill their spots, and they performed admirably. Lyons won his first two starts before faltering in June. Gast also won his first two starts but injured his left shoulder in his third start and recently underwent surgery for repairs.

The Cardinals bullpen got off to a horrendous start with projected closer Jason Motte out for the season with an elbow injury, Mitchell Boggs struggling to a 12.66 earned-run average through May 2 as he tried to be the closer and lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski pitching only slightly better with a 7.88 ERA, although he was demoted to Triple-A Memphis at the end of April.

With the bullpen in disarray, Martinez, Maness, Siegrist, Keith Butler and Michael Blazek all came to the big leagues and provided stability. Some were terrific (Maness has allowed just 11 runs in 45.2 innings and Siegrist has allowed two in 23 innings pitched) but more importantly, none got torched. Blazek has the worst ERA of the group, at 8.13, but he held opponents scoreless in six of his first eight appearances.

Offensively, Adams has provided ample support at first base when right fielder Carlos Beltran needs a rest and regular first baseman Allen Craig has to play the outfield. Adams has hit nine home runs with a .277 batting average.

But all of those young players, and now others such as left-handed rookie reliever Sam Freeman who was called up Aug. 8, will have to keep playing at that same level, if not higher, if the Cardinals are going to maintain a playoff spot or more optimistically compete for the National League Central Division crown.

By and large, the Cardinals established veterans have been consistent throughout the season. Catcher Yadier Molina has been rock solid behind the plate and is among the league leaders with a .325 batting average. Second baseman Matt Carpenter isn’t far behind with a .315 average, Beltran leads the team with 20 home runs and left fielder Matt Holliday is hitting his typical .291 with 15 homers.

Those players will likely continue to produce as they have through the first three-quarters of the season. Third baseman David Freese and center fielder Jon Jay will still hit about .270 with rare flashes of power, and shortstop Pete Kozma will struggle to raise his average above .230.

So, that leaves any variables to young players such as Wong and the rookie pitchers. The Cardinals still have enough time to blast away from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in the division race if the new major leaguers play superbly, or they could fall into another tight race just to make the playoffs if those same players falter in what’s left of August and September.

Molina, Beltran and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright might be some of the well-known faces of the organization, but it will likely be the newcomers who determine how long the Cardinals’ 2013 season lasts.

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Mitchell Boggs gets blame, but Victor Marte no better

The St. Louis Cardinals might have finally cut ties with one veteran right-handed reliever Friday when they sent Mitchell Boggs back to the minors, but they need to say goodbye to another.

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Sure, Boggs gave up a back-breaking homerun to Kansas City Royals pinch-hitter Jeff Francour in the ninth inning of Thursday night’s epic and took the official loss, but his successor just made matters worse.

Victor Marte came in with Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon, who Boggs walked, on first base. Marte promptly hit shortstop Alcides Escobar in the hand, and made a throwing error on the next play to load the bases.

To top things off, first baseman Eric Hosmer hit a high chopper over Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig’s head to drive in the deciding two runs in what became a 4-2 Royals win before Marte intentionally walked pinch hitter Chris Getz.

Mercifully, Mother Nature sent a massive rainstorm that required a four-and-a-half hour delay to prevent Marte from allowing the Royals to do anymore damage. Joe Kelly, who might have been a better option to start the inning anyway, came in after the game restarted at 3:04 a.m. and quickly got three outs.

Obviously, Boggs wasn’t manager Mike Matheny’s best choice to try and close the game since he deemed regular closer Edward Mujica unavailable because he had pitched in each of the four previous games, but Marte obviously wouldn’t have been any better if he’d have started the inning.

The Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of young pitchers in their organization, including four who they have used in the bullpen. Why not use them? Sure, the Cardinals had only a 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning, but the rookies have done nothing so far to prove they can’t handle that type of situation.

Boggs has, many times.

The Cardinals tried to make him their closer to start the season after Jason Motte suffered a season-ending elbow injury in spring training, but Boggs allowed 16 runs in 13 games with 10 walks that led to two blown saves and another two losses.

That led the Cardinals to send Boggs to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on May 2, and he remained there until the big club recalled him May 19.

His performance wasn’t much better the second time around, either. He allowed a homerun to San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable, the first batter he faced, May 20 in his return. He also gave up a run five days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers before Thursday’s meltdown.

Meanwhile, the team has had phenomenal success with pitchers such as Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez. The team recently sent Martinez back to Memphis to condition as a starter, but those three pitchers have a combined 2.92 earned-run average in 45 appearances.

Marte’s first appearance of the 2013 season came Thursday, but it didn’t look much different than how he fared in 2012. The Cardinals picked the 32-year-old up off the scrap heap after he spent 2009-10 with the Royals, and he actually pitched pretty well in the first half of the season with a 3.82 ERA, 12 appearances in June when he allowed just five runs, combined.

However, by the time the season ended his ERA had ballooned to 4.91, and he did not make the postseason roster. The Cardinals used young pitchers such as Shelby Miller instead.

And that’s what they should do again in 2013. They called up Keith Butler from the Double-A Springfield Cardinals to replace Boggs, and they’ll soon need a replacement for Marte, if Thursday was any indication.

That decision will be easier once right-handed starter Jake Westbrook returns to help lessen the burden four rookies have carried in the starting rotation this season.

It might not be desirable to have so many young pitchers on the staff, but Matheny shouldn’t hesitate to use them in important situations because right now they are simply the best option.

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Duffy begins rehab ahead of Naturals Homestand

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – The Naturals’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals announced  that starting pitcher Danny Duffy will begin his Major League rehab assignment with the Naturals on Sunday against the San Antonio Missions.

Duffy is expected to be with the Naturals for their upcoming homestand that begins on Tuesday May 28th.

Last season the hard-throwing lefthander made the Royals starting rotation out of Spring Training and made six starts, going 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA, striking out 28 batters in 27⅔ innings, before being placed in the Disabled List on May 14 with a left elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 13.

A major contributor on the Naturals Texas League Championship team, Duffy made two post-season starts and earned the win in the opening game of the Texas League Championship Series against the Midland RockHounds. Duffy went 5-2 with a 2.95 ERA in seven regular season starts with the Naturals in 2010.

Duffy is the second former Natural to return to the team on a rehab assignment, joining Greg Holland who returned to Northwest Arkansas for two games in 2012.

The Southern California-native will wear number 41 for the Naturals. The Naturals roster is at the Texas League limit of 25 players, plus Duffy who is on a Major League rehab assignment.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and proud host of the 77th Annual Texas League All Star Game. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.

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St. Louis Cardinals reinvent bullpen sooner than normal in 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals began their yearly bullpen revolution early this year as three of the team’s projected relievers are already off the active 25-man roster just a month into the season. Buckle up as another group of extremely young pitchers try to guide the team through the late innings.

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Expected closer Jason Motte succumbed to an elbow injury in spring training and will now have Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out the rest of the season and possibly part of the 2014 season, so the Cardinals turned to 2012 right-handed setup reliever Mitchell Boggs to take his place.

Well, that didn’t work out so great. Boggs pitched in 14 games, blew two saves, walked 12 hitters in 10.2 innings and had a 12.66 earned-run average.

Meanwhile, left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski came in for nine appearances, gave up 13 hits in eight innings and had a 7.88 ERA.

Now both are pitching for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds while rookies Seth Maness, 24, and Carlos Martinez, 21, get a chance at the big-league level.

So far, so good.

Granted neither pitcher has appeared beyond their one inning of work in Friday’s 6-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, but they also didn’t walk anybody. Martinez gave up a single, but he quickly erased that blemish with a double play on a groundball to the mound.

That sample size can’t get any smaller, but neither pitcher looked overwhelmed in their debuts, and both could become very important parts of the Cardinals bullpen as the season progresses.

Edward Mujica has locked down the closer’s role for the time being. He replaced Boggs for ninth-inning duties April 22 in Washington against the Nationals and has converted each of his seven save opportunities heading into play Saturday.

Rookie Trevor Rosenthal has also started to settle in after a rocky start in which he gave up runs in four of his first eight appearances, but he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four outings while striking out six hitters and could take Boggs’ 2012 role as the eighth-inning setup reliever for Mujica’s ninth.

However, that leaves the sixth and seventh innings in flux. Fernando Salas has been solid thus far. He has a 2.86 ERA in 10 appearances, and Randy Choate has a nice 2.25 ERA, but manager Mike Matheny has primarily used him as a left-handed specialist. The other middle reliever, Joe Kelly, has struggled, giving up 18 hits and 10 runs in 9.1 innings.

So Maness and Martinez will likely be put to work early and often in their rookie seasons. The Cardinals starting rotation has pitched extremely well so far this season, but eventually the team will have to rely on a bridge from the starter to the late-inning relievers as the rotation’s ridiculously good 2.06 ERA regresses to a more normal level.

And that’s where Maness and Martinez will be extremely important. The Cardinals have already seen how much a bad bullpen can constantly stunt a team’s success, and they have made borderline desperate moves by bringing up two rookie pitchers at the beginning of May.

It’s a move that could blow up in the team’s face. Maness and Martinez could eventually become overwhelmed by the stress and pressure that comes with being on a Major League Baseball team at such a young age, but it’s a move the Cardinals had to make.

If nothing else, it bought the Cardinals time while Boggs and Rzepczynski refocused in Memphis and tried to recover their typically good form. Both pitchers are a large reason the Cardinals didn’t put together a great record in April, but they are veteran pitchers and could still be valuable later in the season.

Maness and Martinez will likely also have a few struggles along the way, but if they can capitalize on their first big-league experiences, and Boggs and Rzepczynski come back strong, the Cardinals bullpen could actually become a strength by the end of the season.

At least that’s how it has worked out the past two seasons.

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St. Louis Cardinals need more Joe Kelly, less Mitchell Boggs

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1 Friday, but they had to survive another bad performance from reliever Mitchell Boggs while Joe Kelly once again proved he should be used more often.

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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t give Boggs a chance to completely blow the 5-1 lead he had when he entered the game to start the eighth inning, but he did load the bases while recording just one out.

Left-handed specialist Randy Choate bailed him out by forcing Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez to hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Cardinals could have avoided the entire situation if they’d used Joe Kelly to start the inning.

In fact, the Cardinals might not have had to suffer through nearly as many lousy bullpen outings if they had used Kelly more in the first three weeks of the season. Matheny has instead used him in situations such as Friday’s ninth inning when the Cardinals had already opened an eight-run lead.

The bullpen has been the Achilles’ heel of the team so far this season. It had a collective 4.84 earned-run average through 22 games and blew four leads for a starting rotation that has a 2.12 ERA and has kept the team in all but one game so far this season.

Part of the problem is the Cardinals lost their regular closer, Jason Motte, to an elbow injury during spring training and had to scramble to fill his spot right before the regular season started.

Boggs was a logical choice to open the season as the Cardinals’ closer after a great 2012 season when he was the eighth-inning setup reliever. He had career-best 2.21 ERA while pitching in 78 games and earning 34 holds.

But he was a completely different pitcher as the closer. He has allowed 12 runs with eight walks and two blown saves in 11 appearances through the team’s first 22 games. Meanwhile, Kelly has pitched in seven games and allowed four runs with no walks. However, he hasn’t pitched in many high-leverage situations.

Now, that’s not to say Kelly should be the Cardinals closer. Edward Mujica stepped into that role nicely by earning two saves each on recent road series in Philadelphia and Washington.

That move has settled the bullpen, for now, but Kelly must have a larger role in the late innings if the Cardinals are going to consistently keep teams from completing late-inning comebacks.

Matheny recently referred to Kelly as “a Ferrari” that is a nice luxury to have in the bullpen, but that resource is nearly useless if it only sits in the garage.

Instead, Boggs and rookie reliever Trevor Rosenthal have come out of the bullpen seemingly every single day. Rosenthal has pitched in 12 games already, the most of any pitcher on the team despite also being the youngest.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young pitcher and his arm so early into his first full big-league season. Yes, Rosenthal throws really hard and can be an effective weapon out of the bullpen, but flamethrowers don’t always last that long.

For example, the Detroit Tigers had a bullpen that included 100 mph-plus throwers Joel Zumaya Fernando Rodney, but both suffered injuries within two years.

The Cardinals have excellent pitching depth in the minor leagues, but Rosenthal is a prized possession and should be treated as such. Kelly also throws really hard and has enormous potential, but he pitched in the starting rotation much of 2012 and is more accustomed to the demands of a Major League Baseball season.

However, Matheny continues to bring in Rosenthal nearly every night, and Boggs pitches in game after game as the team waits for him to fix his motion while Kelly sits out in the bullpen.

And that type of bullpen management could continue to cost the Cardinals ballgames before Mujica ever reaches the mound until Kelly receives a larger role in the late innings.

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Adam Wainwright back in domination mode

This is the Adam Wainwright the St. Louis Cardinals think is worth $97.5 million for the next five years.

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In his second season after Tommy John surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament, Wainwright has returned to the Cy Young award-caliber pitcher he was before the injury.

He simply dominated the Washington Nationals on Tuesday and now has a 4-1 record and a 1.93 earned-run average with 37 strikeouts against one walk in five starts. He’s established himself once again as the Cardinals’ ace, and that’s a huge relief for everybody involved.

Wainwright had put together a 64-34 record with a 2.99 earned-run average in four seasons as a starter before he suffered the elbow injury at the beginning of spring training in 2011. He also possessed a fastball that reached 96 mph and one of the most devastating curveballs in Major League Baseball.

But that was gone for much of 2012. Wainwright had a winning record, 14-13, but he also had the highest ERA of his career, 3.94, and rarely had the dominating games he did before the injury. His fastball wasn’t as fast, his curveball didn’t break as sharply and too many of his pitches were up in the strike zone, which allowed hitters to often drive balls they hit for extra base hits.

He did have a few standout games, including a four-hit, complete-game shutout May 22 against the San Diego Padres, but he also had several poor stretches such as back-to-back games against the Nationals and New York Mets in late August and early September when he gave up a combined 11 runs in just 7.2 innings.

Wainwright said he was sure his good stuff would come back, but he hadn’t proved it until that complete game against the Padres.

“It’s a huge sense of relief; it’s a huge sense of feeling blessed,” he said after the shutout against San Diego. “Mentally, tonight, I was so much better than I had been. I’ve worked very hard to get back to where I am.”

However, not every game went so well, and the Cardinals had an important decision to make as the 2013 season approached. Wainwright was about to enter the final year of his contract, and the Cardinals had to figure out if they were going to keep him beyond this season.

Overall, his career track showed he could be as good a pitcher as there is the game, but his performances after the injury caused plenty of concern.

Yes, most pitchers come back from Tommy John surgery and pitch as well as they did beforehand, but successful surgery is never a guarantee, and Wainwright’s 2012 season offered no certainties that he would ever be the type of pitcher he was beforehand.

But the Cardinals signed him to the long-term deal March 28, just days before the season started. Now, it is a fairly big risk to give a five-year contract to a 31-year-old pitcher who had major elbow surgery, but so far Wainwright has made the Cardinals’ management look pretty smart.

And the best could be yet to come. Wainwright sliced through the Nationals on Tuesday for 8.1 shutout innings with nine strikeouts and his first walk of the season after 34.2 innings, which was fewer than six innings from the franchise record.

He threw a fastball at 94 mph, his curveball buckled Nationals hitters’ knees throughout the night and his control was as precise as ever.

Wainwright is back to the form Cardinals officials hoped they would see when they signed him to the contract extension, and now they can sit back and watch their investment dominate opposing hitters as if its 2010 again.

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Kozmamania T-Shirts Available

The St. Louis Cardinals have seen their share of injuries this off-season.  The one that appears to have the most impact currently will be at shortstop.

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Rafael Furcal, the Cardinals starting shortstop, is out for the season after requiring Tommy John surgery to repair an elbow injury that dates back to late last season.  An offseason and Spring of market investigation for a replacement has yielded no results to date, leaving general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny to react the same way they did last season, with Pete Kozma.

Kozma, an enigma of a ballplayer, had all but been given up on due to his (lack of) performance at the minor league level.  A first round draft pick that seemed to be a bust, Kozma was the reason that Furcal arrived in St. Louis in the first place.  But when Furcal went down last season, the Cardinals were left with very little choice and handed the position to the struggling prospect.

What happened was something no one expected: he succeeded.  Kozma found a glimpse of his potential on the biggest stage possible and performed well during the final month of the season and in the post-season for the Cardinals.  As the Cardinals prepare to break camp, Kozma is prepared to be the starting shortstop once again.

Friend of the site Sam Feldman helped i70baseball immortalize Kozma and the feelings surrounding him with a t-shirt that is now available on TeeSpring.com.  The shirt, which embodies both the spirit of the fans that have an extreme feeling of support for the young shortstop as well as a sarcastic feel for those that feel the hype is a bit too high, is available for a limited time at the price of $15 per shirt.

Kozmamania has hit St. Louis.  Get your shirt today.

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Wigginton Should Be Next Cut

The St. Louis Cardinals sent home one unproductive veteran player Tuesday in their latest round of cuts, and they need to do the same with another, even if it costs the team a relatively large amount of money.

Robinson Freese Wigginton

The Cardinals brought Ronny Cedeno in to spring training as an insurance policy at the shortstop position since Rafael Furcal did not recover from an elbow injury he suffered last season, and the team had yet to believe Pete Kozma would be good enough to handle the position full time.

But the Cardinals realized they would not be in good hands with Cedeno, a career .247 hitter, as their primary option at shortstop. Kozma burst out of offseason to hit .429 in the first 10 days of exhibition games while Cedeno struggled to raise his batting average above .167.

Cedeno eventually picked up the pace to finish with a .290 average, and Kozma predictably didn’t hit above .400 the entire spring (he fell to .318), but Kozma showed the Cardinals he could handle the responsibilities of being the starting shortstop. That meant the Cardinals had little need for Cedeno, who had signed for one year and $1.15 million.

Daniel Descalso will now be the Cardinals only backup middle infielder, but Cedeno’s release freed up a spot on the bench for more talented hitters such as first baseman prospect Matt Adams.

But that’s only because the Cardinals will likely be hesitant to release the other unproductive veteran free agent they brought to camp: Ty Wigginton.

Wigginton has just four base hits and a .103 batting average with eight strikeouts so far this spring, yet the Cardinals probably won’t release him because they made the poor decision in the offseason to sign the 35-year-old, who hasn’t hit above .250 since 2009, to a two-year, $5 million contract.

Sure, $5 million isn’t an incredible amount of money in the modern world of baseball, but expecting Wigginton to be a productive player at all, much less two years, is almost asking for a miracle to happen.

Maybe Wigginton will run into a late-inning homerun and ends up helping the Cardinals win a game at some point this season, but they have much more talented players who will start the season in the minor leagues.

Future second baseman Kolten Wong, future outfielder Oscar Taveras and even outfielder Adron Chambers provide more potential benefits to the Cardinals that Wigginton, but they aren’t making $5 million across two years and they are young players who the Cardinals don’t want to rot on the bench.

So Wigginton will probably make the team no matter how bad he hits. Thankfully, there should still be a spot for Adams, who has hit .304 this spring and is tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs. It would be nice if the Cardinals went with Chambers, who provides speed, or outfielder Shane Robinson, who has had a great spring with a .465 batting average and 12 RBIs, but one will likely be left off the opening day roster.

The Cardinals are chiseling away at their roster for opening day. Unfortunately, they will probably leave one blemish and give Wigginton a job based on what they hope he can do, because he certainly hasn’t shown them anything this spring that makes him worthy to make a Major League Baseball roster.

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St. Louis Cardinals Will Win Despite Lack Of Speed

The St. Louis Cardinals project to have an Opening Day lineup full of players who will regularly get on base and it also features plenty of power to drive them in. The one thing the team will lack, however, is speed.

Jon Jay

The Cardinals stole 91 bases in 2012, which tied them with the Texas Rangers for 24th of 30 teams in Major League Baseball, but players who stole more than a quarter of the Cardinals bases last season are either hurt or no longer with the team.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal stole 12 bases last season but is out for the season with an elbow injury, and fellow shortstop Tyler Greene, who had nine stolen bases, is now with the Houston Astros.

That leaves the Cardinals with about four regular stolen base threats. Slow-footed but incredibly intelligent catcher Yadier Molina stole 12 bases last year and could very well steal another dozen or so this season. Rightfielder Carlos Beltran had 13 stolen bases last year, but he is 35 years old and has slowed down considerably in recent years after various knee injuries.

The other proven stolen-base threat from last year’s team is centerfielder Jon Jay, who had 19 last season. He will likely lead the team again this season unless outfield prospect Oscar Taveras makes the team, but even he hasn’t stolen more than 10 bases in a season during his four seasons in the minor leagues.

Shortstop Pete Kozma stole just two bases during his brief 26-game stint with the Cardinals at the end of 2012, but he once stole 24 bases in 2008 and had 13 in 2010, all in the minor leagues.

Other than those options, the Cardinals will likely enter the season with a pretty slow team, but that’s not necessarily a terrible fault.

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 after stealing just 57 bases, which ranked last in the National League, and only the Detroit Tigers had fewer steals with 49 that season. The Cardinals also made it to within one game of the World Series in 2012 while ranking 24th.

And they aren’t the only team that has found it can win without stealing bases. In fact, just three teams that made the 2012 playoffs ranked in the top half of baseball in stolen bases. The Oakland A’s were ninth, the San Francisco Giants were 10th and the Washington Nationals were 15th.

Otherwise, all of the best teams didn’t steal many bases. The World Series-champion Detroit Tigers actually ranked dead last for the second year in a row, but they had great power and great pitching.

Those two factors are also why the Cardinals shouldn’t be too concerned about the number of bases they steal in 2013.

They have a lineup that should easily rank in the top 10 in all three of the Triple Crown categories, batting average, homeruns and runs batted in, and they have a pitching staff that should be more than solid if not for too many injuries.

Sure, Chris Carpenter is no longer an option at the top of the rotation, but the Cardinals have arguably the most young talent on their pitching staff since the days Tony La Russa decided to come to St. Louis because Matt Morris and Alan Benes were on their way to the big leagues.

The Whitey Herzog disciples will forever yearn for the days when Cardinals players of the 1980s slapped the ball into play and ran like the wind around the bases, but those days have long since passed. And they aren’t coming back anytime soon, at least not as long as the Cardinals furnish a lineup with five batters who can hit 20 or more homeruns.

So while the Cardinals style of play might not be terribly exciting on the basepaths, nearly every other aspect of their play is good enough that they will likely once again be playoff contenders come September.

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The Cedeno Scenario

The St. Louis Cardinals reached an agreement to bring infielder Ronny Cedeno to the club yesterday. The 29 year old will be paid just over $1.1 million on a one-year deal, with a chance to gain another $800 in performance incentives as well. On the surface, it is a depth move; a chance to add a veteran presence to a club that has multiple questions about the condition of its middle infield. However, is there more to it than that?

Ronny  Cedeno

The team’s hand was forced nearly all of last year at shortstop. Rafael Furcal played a high volume of games by his standards (his 531 plate appearances were his most since 2009) in large part due to lack of comfortable depth behind him on the roster, and in the system at large. When he was finally curbed by a back injury, then finally by the elbow injury that seemed to necessitate surgery (but he has avoided to date), the team was forced to scramble to fill his void. Both Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson were plugged into action, despite neither being considered a strong candidate for the fill-in. Jackson never really worked out, but Kozma rode a hot bat that made him a viable everyday option in September. He hit .333 in 72 at-bats, and played a serviceable shortstop.

However, the postseason brought out the inexperience in him on the highest level. His bat dipped to a .227 clip, much closer to the .232 total he managed during a full-season at Memphis. The moment admittedly also bore down on him as well, “the moment did get a bit big,” Kozma stated, when referring to the crunch of the playofss. Among those moments was a failure to act, ending up in the biggest infield fly rule debate, as well as a late game error in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series that led to the game winning run.

Kozma’s return to Earth, when coupled with Furcal’s unknown health status, made the position a red-hot spot for debate on if the team would make a move for more security there.  General Manager John Mozeliak didn’t dispel these rumors either, stating as recently as this month at club’s Winter Warm-Up event that “We still have not ruled out any additions in the middle infield, if necessary”. Which was a sentiment apparently not understood by Kozma yet, who revealed it was a point of confidence of his that the team didn’t go outside the organization to make additions in the middle infield this winter.

That possibility became a reality just a bit over a week after he uttered that sentiment when the team added a journeyman in the style of Cedeno to the roster. It is a move that definitively ends any debate about who the top backup shortstop would be, as well as who would be the starter if Furcal is unable to go right away. With Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Ty Wigginton all presumptively on penciled into the Opening Day infield starter/bench scene, the perspective for the spring has to change for Kozma.

Most importantly, the signing put a final emphasis on the mission of the club to get make improvements where it could a year ago. While Cedeno, a career .249 hitter, will not be counted on to win games, he does give the team experience where it couldn’t find it a year ago. If anything, it reduces the risk of the cupboard being bare if Murphy’s Law does take up residence between second and third base at Busch.

It’s not the death sentence for Kozma, Jackson or even another move being made later, but it’s a clear sign that the organization isn’t leaving anything up to chance this summer.

CheapSeatsPlease

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